Flight attendants have an exciting and challenging job. Not only do they get to travel to different places around the globe, but they also need to keep plane passengers happy and safe in a confined environment. Does their salary compensate for the challenges that they face? Find out how much money flight attendants make.
How Much Do Flight Attendants Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, flight attendants make an average of $56,000 per year. The position's pay can vary drastically, with the lowest 10% earning less than $28,000, and the highest 10% earning more than $80,000. In addition to their salaries, flight attendants also receive an allowance to cover their meal and hotel expenditures when traveling. Additional benefits for some positions might include free travel or upgrades.
The annual salary of a flight attendant has increased from a dollar amount standpoint. A decade ago, flight attendants made an average of $39,000. However, when accounting for inflation, cuts in pension and other benefits, hours spent preparing for flights, and hours spent traveling, some may argue that flight attendants are actually getting paid less than they ever have.
While flight attendants have better salaries than your average service worker who gets paid around $30,000 a year, they make a little less than the average professional worker, who gets paid around $60,000 a year.
What Factors Determine a Flight Attendant's Salary?
The average flight attendant's salary is not a direct reflection of what all people in this occupation make. Like many careers, flight attendants have varying earning potential based on two main factors.
- Seniority: Moving up as a flight attendant, in terms of both career growth and salary, is largely determined by seniority. Flight attendants who have worked in the industry for an extended period of time -- particularly if they have worked with one company -- are given more responsibilities. Some of these include overseeing other flight attendants, scheduling, and recruiting. This generally results in better wages overall.
- Location: Like many occupations, a flight attendant's salary is somewhat determined by location. Flight attendants based out of major metropolitan areas -- such as New York City or Los Angeles -- may make more than flight attendants based out of smaller, less busy regions.
What Airline Pays the Most for Flight Attendants?
Unsurprisingly, not all airlines pay flight attendants the same types of wages. Here are some of the U.S. airline companies and the salaries they pay flight attendants, according to wages on Payscale.com:
Spirit Airlines: Known as the ultimate low-cost carrier, it may come as little surprise that Spirit pays their flight attendants lower than other airlines at an average of $17 an hour.
Delta AirElite: Despite being dedicated to chartering private jets for the wealthy, Delta AirElite pays an average of $18 an hour to flight attendants.
Frontier Airlines: Frontier Airlines is another budget carrier that pays flight attendants on the low end of the scale. They make an average of $20 an hour.
Skywest Airlines: This major American airline serves largely as a contractor for other, larger airline companies. They pay their flight attendants an average of $21 an hour.
JetBlue Airways: Known as one of the nation's favorite budget carriers, JetBlue may not have the best pay for flight attendants, but they are known for their stellar corporate culture. A flight attendant gets paid an average of $21 an hour.
Delta Air Lines: Glassdoor recently named Delta Air Lines one of the best places to work. They are also among the top five paying airlines on our list, providing flight attendants a salary of $31 an hour.
American Airlines: Unsurprisingly, the world's largest airline is among the top five best-paying airlines for flight attendants, with an average salary of $34 per hour.
Hawaiian Airlines: The largest airline company serving Hawaii pays its flight attendants well, with an average salary is $35 per hour.
Southwest Airlines: Southwest is a favorite among flight industry workers due to its stability. They have never laid off a single worker and they pay a fair wage to their flight attendants, who make an average of $37 per hour.
United Airlines: United has had some major customer service complaints over the last decade, but they consistently receive rave reviews from employees. With an average hourly pay at $48, United leads the pack in terms of flight attendant salaries.
Becoming a flight attendant may not require a lot of formal qualifications, but getting hired and doing well in the position is heavily dependent on having the right set of soft skills. Here are some of the qualities that airlines look for when hiring a flight attendant.
Education and Certifications
In terms of education, flight attendants generally only need a high school diploma. However, they do require official certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Most flight attendants will receive training to obtain this certification a few weeks after the date of hire. The training covers a variety of scenarios, including medical emergencies, emergency landings, aircraft evacuations, and practice flights. They must also receive special training on each new model of aircraft that they fly in.
To become a flight attendant, applicants generally require at least one to two years of experience in the service industry. This experience does not need to be related to the transportation or airline industries. It can include anything from retail customer service, bartending or waiting, or even sales.
Flight attendants must have great vision, meaning that it must be at least 20/40 with the assistance of glasses or contact lenses. Some airlines have height requirements to ensure that they can fit on the airplane and perform their duties properly. Some flight attendants may also need to undergo a more in-depth medical evaluation to qualify.
Certain soft skills are essential to becoming a great flight attendant. Having a general sense of awareness and attention to detail is essential. This not only ensures that the flight attendant will meet passenger needs appropriately but also helps the flight attendant notice security concerns if they should arise. The ability to remain calm and make sound decisions in times of crisis is also important if an emergency arises. In terms of providing great customer service, it helps if the flight attendant is personable and has polished communications skills.
The projected payment outlook for flight attendants is positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is anticipated to grow 10% in the coming decade -- which is higher than average compared to other occupations in the U.S. This could be because air travel is getting more popular and more accessible, leading to an increase in the need for this profession. Many anticipate that this increased demand could lead to higher salaries for flight attendants overall.